Cricket season is upon us, and how refreshing to see a vibrant and determined female team, showing a perfect blend of hard work and humour at the popular Palmwoods Cricket Club.
by Rebecca Mugridge
The freshly mowed green grass makes the crisp white uniforms stand out as the team gathers in a circle to practise. Smiles are on every face and laughter fills the morning air. They start to throw and catch to each other; warming up. It is a classic picture of an Australian sport.
They are the Palmwoods Cricket Club (PCC) Ladies’ Team, a self-coined family of cricket-loving women not just playing a sport, but promoting ladies’ cricket and community as well.
The PCC ladies’ team has 17 in its squad and 13 main players, based out of Palmwoods. At the helm is young Captain Julia Brown. She is confident and tenacious, never taking her eye off the ball when it’s in play and leading her team.
Julia has been playing cricket for over ten years, starting out with boys’ school cricket for most of her life before excitedly moving into women’s cricket at Sunshine Coast Grammar.
“I was just one of the boys with them, it was great. I was the only girl playing cricket for most of my junior cricket, before Grammar and until I got into the state competition. I also went on to play for Queensland in 2012 before injury meant I had to stop playing at that level,” she says proudly.
Julia says women in cricket are really supportive of one another and celebrate in each other’s successes. “There is a real comradeship and friendship that comes with cricket.”
She has seen first-hand the growth in opportunities for women’s cricket on the Sunshine Coast recently too, especially for younger girls.
“There was nothing for girls on the coast back then and now you are expecting to see a girl playing on a team and some of the girls that I played with are now playing in Brisbane Heat and playing for Australia. I’m so happy for them.”
Cricket is such a good sport to be involved in, Julia believes. “I always say that the team is your second family. You can always trust them. I have known some of these ladies for a good five years now and it will be for life as well.”
As Captain she looks after her own team, but she is also a role model for girls playing cricket too and wants any girl who is interested to reach out to a club.
“Just have a go, cricket is for everyone. They will have lifelong friendships and there are so many chances for girls to play now.”
The women are also positive role models for their sons, as they see their mothers actively involved in the sport, taking on leadership positions traditionally assumed to be men’s roles in the game.
The PCC is also making its own headlines in cricket because this year it has its first ever female Club President, a club first, since it began in the 1890s! This incredible achievement and milestone by Melinda Shelley is a big accomplishment for women in sport, and recognition for her leadership skills and passion for cricket.
Melinda says she was really proud to be a part of such a great club. “I am very fortunate to hold that title this season and to also be the second female president on the coast too. It is a great position to hold and I have a great team alongside me.
“With the committees we have going this year too, we are all working as part of a big team to get cricket on the field.”
Melinda is a shining example of sportsmanship, inclusiveness and community, you can see immediately why she is Club President and how much all the women respect her.
She is also part of the Ladies’ Committee on the coast, which is all about getting women’s cricket up and running successfully across the region. “Across the Sunshine Coast the ladies’ teams are all very friendly and all get along really well,” says Melinda.
The popularity of the sport is growing across the coast too. “Last season we had only six teams playing in the competition and this year we have nine and nine clubs, so it’s great to see that we are expanding and even have four brand new clubs coming into the competition.
“We are fortunate that we are all in there to grow the competition. It’s cricket, it’s cricket that wins.”
Melinda says any girl over 14 who is interested in having a go, making new friends and sharing a love of cricket is very welcome to contact the club. They are always looking for new members and eventually would love to have a two-tiered team system.
“In our team and across all clubs there is a large range of skills, so we accommodate for that.”
Team Manager, Michael Guest, says Cricket Australia is trying to get more women involved and it’s good to see.
“This is my second season for me here and I’m really enjoying it. I really can see it having two tiers eventually. What the Sunshine Coast Scorchers have done is definitely a step in the right direction for women’s cricket in the area. Prior to that starting, if women wanted to play, they had to go to Brisbane or play on the men’s teams.
“Since the Scorchers started a couple of years ago a few of our girls we have playing came through there to the Palmwoods team, and the Sunshine Coast had nine teams this year, which is an expansion already from last year.”
Michael says the games this season will be worth coming to watch. “Hopefully we can get a win. We came close last year and there were a couple of games where results could have gone either way and we even had a tie. Hopefully we can bring a premiership to Palmwoods for women but as long as they are having fun, that’s what counts.”